Khwarezmian language

Khwārezmian (Khwarezmian: زڨاک‌ای خوارزم, zβ'k 'y xw'rzm;[2] also transliterated Khwarazmian, Chorasmian, Khorezmian) is an extinct East Iranian language[3][4][5][6] closely related to Sogdian. The language was spoken in the area of Khwarezm (Chorasmia), centered in the lower Amu Darya south of the Aral Sea (the northern part of the modern Republic of Uzbekistan and the adjacent areas of Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan).

𐾳𐾲𐾲𐿋𐾲𐾲𐾽𐾻 زڨاک‌ای خوارزم
Native toKhwarezm
RegionCentral Asia
Era550 BCE – 1200 CE[1]
Aramaic alphabet, Sogdian alphabet, Pahlavi script, Arabic script
Language codes
ISO 639-3xco

Knowledge of Khwarezmian is limited to its Middle Iranian stage and, as with Sogdian, little is known of its ancient form. From the writings of the great Khwarezmian scholars, Al-Biruni and Zamakhshari, we know that the language was in use at least until the 13th century, when it was gradually replaced by Persian for the most part, as well as several dialects of Turkic.[7]

Other than the astronomical terms used by al-Biruni, our other sources of Khwarezmian include Zamakhshari's ArabicPersian–Khwarezmian dictionary and several legal texts that use Khwarezmian terms and quotations to explain certain legal concepts, most notably the Qunyat al-Munya of Mukhtār al-Zāhidī al-Ghazmīnī (d. 1259/60).[7][8]

The noted scholar W.B. Henning was preparing a dictionary of Khwarezmian when he died, leaving it unfinished. A fragment of this dictionary was published posthumously by D.N. MacKenzie in 1971.[9]

Writing systemEdit

Directionright-to-left script, top-to-bottom  
ISO 15924
ISO 15924Chrs (109), ​Chorasmian
Unicode alias

Before the advance of Islam in Transoxiana (early 8th century), Khwarezmian was written in a script close to that of Sogdian and Pahlavi with its roots in the imperial Aramaic script. From the few surviving examples of this script on coins and artifacts, it has been observed that written Khwarezmian included Aramaic logograms or ideograms, that is Aramaic words written to represent native spoken ones e.g. 𐡔𐡍𐡕 (ŠNT) for سرذ, sarδ, "year", 𐡍𐡐𐡔𐡉 (NPŠY) for خداك, xudāk, "self" and 𐡌𐡋𐡊𐡀 (MLK') for اى شاه, ī šah, "the king".[10]

After the advance of Islam, Khwarezmian was written using an adapted version of the Perso-Arabic alphabet with a few extra signs to reflect specific Khwarezmian sounds, such as the letter څ which represents /ts/ and /dz/, as in the traditional Pashto orthography.[11]


Khwarezmian script was added to the Unicode Standard in March, 2020 with the release of version 13.0.

The Unicode block for Khwarezmian, called Chorasmian, is U+10FB0–U+10FDF:

Official Unicode Consortium code chart (PDF)
  0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 A B C D E F
U+10FBx 𐾰 𐾱 𐾲 𐾳 𐾴 𐾵 𐾶 𐾷 𐾸 𐾹 𐾺 𐾻 𐾼 𐾽 𐾾 𐾿
U+10FCx 𐿀 𐿁 𐿂 𐿃 𐿄 𐿅 𐿆 𐿇 𐿈 𐿉 𐿊 𐿋
1.^ As of Unicode version 14.0
2.^ Grey areas indicate non-assigned code points

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ Khwārezmian at MultiTree on the Linguist List
  2. ^ Chwarezmischer Wortindex. pp. 686, 711.
  3. ^ Encyclopedia Iranica, "The Chorasmian Language", D.N.Mackenzie. Online access at June, 2011: [1]
  4. ^ Andrew Dalby, Dictionary of Languages: the definitive reference to more than 400 languages, Columbia University Press, 2004, pg 278.
  5. ^ MacKenzie, D. N. "Khwarazmian Language and Literature," in E. Yarshater ed. Cambridge History of Iran, Vol. III, Part 2, Cambridge 1983, pp. 1244–1249.
  6. ^ Encyclopædia Britannica, "Iranian languages" (Retrieved 29 December 2008)
  7. ^ a b CHORASMIA iii. The Chorasmian Language
  8. ^ MacKenzie, D. N. (1990). The Khwarezmian Element in the Qunyat Al-munya. Psychology Press. ISBN 9780728601611.
  9. ^ Henning, Walter Bruno; MacKenzie, D. N. (1971). A fragment of a Khwarezmian dictionary. Lund Humphries. ISBN 9780853312925.
  10. ^ Pandey, Anshuman. "Proposal to encode the Khwarezmian script in Unicode" (PDF).{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  11. ^ THE KHWAREZMIAN GLOSSARY—I, D. N. MacKenzie Link

External linksEdit